Study skills are some of the highest and most complex of all the executive functions. Depending on the child’s grade and expectations, they will be expected to layer or stack multiple executive functions.

This is why so many families struggle with homework and IEPs.

A man utilizing study skills while sitting at a table with a laptop

And while not too many kids will voluntarily stand up and proclaim, “I cannot do this because I don’t have the EF skills!” Most of your classmates will passively tell you who these kids are.

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How? They are always the last ones picked for group projects. Unless they have a lot of social capital, kids who do not study and work well due to EF struggles don’t “pull their weight” in group projects and are considered lazy.

A young man, utilizing study skills, sitting at a desk with a laptop.

Examples of Study Skills

Study skills refer to a set of strategies and techniques that students use to enhance their learning and academic performance. Developing effective study skills is crucial for success in education, as it can help students manage their time efficiently, retain information, and perform well on exams.

Here are some key study skills:

  1. Time Management:
    • Create a schedule or timetable to allocate dedicated time for studying, attending classes, and other activities.
    • Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
    • Prioritize tasks based on deadlines and importance.
  2. Note-Taking:
    • Develop effective note-taking techniques, such as summarizing information, using bullet points, and highlighting key concepts.
    • Organize notes in a clear and coherent manner to facilitate later review.
  3. Active Reading:
    • Engage with the material actively by asking questions, making predictions, and connecting new information to prior knowledge.
    • Take breaks during reading sessions to enhance focus and understanding.
  4. Effective Reading Strategies:
    • Skim and scan texts to get an overview before in-depth reading.
    • Highlight or underline key points and important details.
    • Take notes while reading to reinforce understanding.
  5. Memory Techniques:
    • Use mnemonic devices, acronyms, or visualization to aid memory retention.
    • Practice retrieval by testing yourself on the material regularly.
  6. Critical Thinking:
    • Analyze and evaluate information rather than simply memorizing it.
    • Develop the ability to think critically and make connections between concepts.
  7. Problem-Solving:
    • Practice solving problems related to the subject matter.
    • Seek help when encountering challenging concepts or questions.
  8. Active Participation:
    • Actively participate in class discussions, ask questions, and seek clarification when needed.
    • Collaborate with peers through study groups or discussion forums.
  9. Effective Communication:
    • Develop communication skills for writing essays, reports, and other assignments.
    • Clearly articulate ideas and arguments.
  10. Self-Reflection:
    • Reflect on your learning process and identify areas for improvement.
    • Adjust study strategies based on what works best for you.
  11. Test-Taking Strategies:
    • Practice past exams or sample questions under timed conditions.
    • Review and understand feedback on previous assessments.
A boy wearing headphones is working on a computer, utilizing study skills.

Study Skills Accommodations and Strategies

Here are some IEP accommodations specifically related to study skills:

  1. Extended Time for Assignments or Tests:
    • Allow the student additional time to complete assignments or tests to accommodate for processing speed or other challenges.
  2. Modified Assignments:
    • Adapt assignments to better suit the student’s learning style, ensuring they can demonstrate understanding without being hindered by unnecessary challenges.
  3. Visual Supports:
    • Provide visual aids, charts, or graphic organizers to help with organization, note-taking, and comprehension.
  4. Use of Assistive Technology:
    • Allow the use of assistive technology tools such as speech-to-text software, text-to-speech programs, or other devices that can aid in reading and writing.
  5. Breaks During Study Sessions:
    • Permit the student to take short breaks during study sessions to manage attention or focus issues.
  6. Alternative Testing Formats:
    • Offer alternative testing formats such as oral exams, projects, or presentations to better assess the student’s understanding.
  7. Sensory Accommodations:
    • Implement accommodations for students with sensory sensitivities, such as providing noise-canceling headphones or a quiet space for study.
  8. Preferential Seating:
    • Allow the student to sit in a location within the classroom that minimizes distractions or addresses sensory needs.
  9. Explicit Instruction in Study Skills:
    • Provide direct instruction in study skills, including note-taking strategies, time management, and organizational skills.
  10. Checklists and Reminders:
    • Utilize checklists, visual schedules, or reminders to help the student stay organized and manage tasks.
  11. Peer Assistance or Tutoring:
    • Arrange for peer support or tutoring to reinforce concepts and assist with study strategies.
  12. Flexible Grading:
    • Consider a more flexible grading approach that emphasizes understanding and progress rather than strict adherence to conventional grading norms.
  13. Structured Study Environment:
    • Create a structured and organized study environment, possibly with clear instructions and visual cues, to support focus and attention.
  14. Modified Homework Assignments:
    • Adjust the complexity or length of homework assignments to match the student’s ability level.
A child is practicing study skills by diligently writing in a notebook with a pencil.

Note Taking Accommodations

Many students are expected to take notes during a class or lecture, but have no idea what to write down. To be an effective note-taker, you must have competent receptive language. This includes voice, body language, expressions, volume, etc.

Once the student can do that, they must be able to extract what is (seemingly) important and write it down. And write it down so that it can be referred to later.

This is a pretty high-level executive functioning skill. And why it is such a struggle for so many kids with learning disabilities.

Here are some IEP accommodations for note-taking:

  1. Providing Copies of Lecture Notes:
    • Supply the student with a copy of the teacher’s or peer’s lecture notes to review after the class.
  2. Note-Taking Templates:
    • Provide templates or outlines for note-taking to help students organize information in a structured manner.
  3. Graphic Organizers:
    • Use graphic organizers, charts, or diagrams to visually represent information and aid in understanding.
  4. Preferential Seating:
    • Allow the student to sit in a location that provides a clear view of the teacher and instructional materials, reducing distractions.
  5. Recording Lectures:
    • Allow the use of recording devices to capture lectures, ensuring the student can revisit the material for review.
  6. Note-Taking Apps or Assistive Technology:
    • Permit the use of note-taking apps, speech-to-text software, or other assistive technology tools to enhance the note-taking process.
  7. Scribe or Note-Taking Support:
    • Provide a peer buddy or classroom aide to assist with note-taking or transcribing information.
  8. Extended Time for Note-Taking:
    • Allow additional time for the student to complete note-taking tasks, recognizing that they may need more time due to processing speed or other challenges.
  9. Highlighting Key Information:
    • Encourage the use of highlighting or underlining to identify key points in notes, making it easier for the student to focus on essential information.
  10. Abbreviation System:
    • Allow the student to use a personalized abbreviation system to condense notes while retaining important information.
  11. Chunking Information:
    • Break down information into smaller, more manageable chunks, making it easier for the student to process and retain.
  12. Visual Supports:
    • Integrate visual cues, charts, or images into notes to enhance understanding and memory.
  13. Access to Lecture Outlines or PowerPoint Slides:
    • Provide access to lecture outlines or PowerPoint slides in advance, allowing the student to familiarize themselves with the content before the class.
  14. Review Sessions:
    • Schedule regular review sessions with the student to ensure understanding of the material and address any questions or concerns.
  15. Peer Note-Taking System:
    • Implement a peer note-taking system where the student can obtain copies of notes from a reliable classmate.

So much foundational content must be mastered first. I recommend you do a deep dive with the students to pinpoint their issues and accommodate the lack of skill until the student learns how to take notes.

A person utilizing study skills while writing on a notebook with a pen.

Note Taking Apps for Students

Here are some note-taking resources and AT.

  1. Open Text Summarizer summarizes text ~ 40 different languages, identifying key words and allowing you to determine the summarization ratio.
  2. OneNote is part of the Microsoft Office Suite and provides versatility in note-taking, sharing, searching, and collaborating.
  3. MindMeister is a free-to-fee web-based application to support mind-mapping as a means of brainstorming, organizing ideas, note-taking, and project-planning.
  4. Diigo is a free to fee based online program that allows you to collect, organize, highlight, and annotate your web-based research information into your cloud library. You can highlight text, screen capture, or save archived web material to review any time.
  5. SMMRY: A free, quick and easy-to-use summarizing website is SMMRY. Its main purpose is to provide an efficient and understandable summary to a text, and it does so by providing numerous options to customize the summary.
  6. Summarizer is a web-based text summarization tool. You can upload url links and the tool will extract main ideas/details. A helpful way to quickly review resources during the research process.
  7. Online Summarize Tool : Under the website, Tools4Noobs is a good summarizing tool called- Online Summarize Tool, which is similar to other online tools but allows options in customizing the resulting summary that is not available in others such as maximum sentence length and number of lines.
  8. AutoSummarizer: “is another quick and easy summarizing website. This tool is still on its beta stage and is still on its way to being fully developed, but it is a very usable site despite this. It ranks sentences based on their value, and uses the extraction-based summarization algorithm.”
  9. Free Summarizer: “A website for summarizing very simple but long texts is Free Summarizer. It is very quick and easy to use and allows you the option of determining the number of sentences you want the resulting summary to be.”

Test Taking IEP Accommodations

  1. Quiet room
  2. Exercise or sensory break before the test
  3. Snack or take a bathroom break before the test
  4. Ability to read out loud to oneself during the test
  5. Have the test read to them.
  6. Able to answer verbally (either directly to the teacher or recorded)
  7. Fidget toy during exam
  8. Extended test taking time
  9. Alternative assessment method (IE book report or project instead of a test)
  10. Notes or graphic organizers during the test
  11. Open book and open note test
  12. Group/Partner test
  13. Teacher/para/tutor develops real-world applications for concept and discussion
  14. monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly phone or in-person conferences with parents (progress monitoring)
  15. homework assignments chunked down by the teacher to define each task
  16. have the child write down verbal questions to aid in processing
  17. breaking down tests into segments
  18. pre-teaching information, then post-teaching afterward
  19. alternatives for completing assignments (typed instead of written or verbal)
  20. provide facilitated experiences (opportunities to apply information)
  21. frequent test breaks with opportunities to move
  22. testing in a study carrel
  23. testing in the morning only (or at the best time for students)
  24. masking test items so only single questions are visible
  25. permission to hand in all assignments late, as pre-determined
  26. modify assignments to only include the essential content
  27. intersperse easy and difficult demands on an 80/20 basis (and work to increase)
  28. longer assignments are broken down and scheduled out in pictures or words

Study Skills Websites

These websites are free and offer more information on how to develop good study skills. They also can help parents and students identify and define what good study skills look like.

  1. LD Pride
  2. Learning Strategies Center
  3. StudyGS
  4. Great Schools
  5. Learning Connection/Stanford
  6. Watch Know Learn
  7. IMindQ
  8. Uncommon Help
  9. Mullen Memory

How to Improve Executive Function Skills

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